The bold and the beautiful

Raven and I enjoying the spring weather

We’ve had a string of beautiful weather the last few days. Mild temperatures, jacket optional, no toque required. Sunday was by far the nicest, though. A repeat photo of Saturday’s, only better. Note the shoved-up sleeves, bare head. I could probably even have ditched the vest and been fine. Although the thermometer suggested it was warmer today, Sunday afternoon the sun was shining and there was a lovely warm breeze blowing – you know, the sort that caresses your skin, rather than nipping at it. It really felt like a small gift from April, a promise of things to come.

greenbottle fly

The temptation was enough to get the boldest of the insects out of bed for a look-see. Although I still didn’t see many out in the fields or woods, there were quite a number climbing up the west side of the house in the afternoon. Most numerous by far were the flies. As far as I could tell, there were two types – the greenbottle above, and a gray one that might have been the same species I photographed in March last year, though I didn’t get a photo of the latter to be able to confirm.

Polistes paper wasp

I saw a couple of Polistes paper wasps, probably P. fuscatus, the Northern Paper Wasp. I wrote a bit about the life cycle of paper wasps in one of my early posts here, a little over two years ago now. The colony spends the whole summer growing in size in order to eventually produce a crop of new queen wasps in the fall. These young queens mate and then overwinter, while the old queen and all the workers die at the end of the fall. Come spring, the wasps you see emerging are these mated queens, looking to start new colonies. They’ll find a good spot (old nests are never reused) and start building a new nest, laying eggs and provisioning the developing young themselves until enough workers have grown up to be able to take over the duties.

spider

Spiders have been everywhere. They’re so far the only invertebrate I’ve seen active out in the meadows. I’ve seen a few species, and I don’t know what any of them are. I don’t think they’re the same ones I saw on the snow in the winter, but I could be wrong about that. They skitter over the grasses and dead vegetation, and they were dashing about on the foundation of the house. Just little small guys, less than half a centimetre (1/4″) long.

I also saw a Boxelder Bug on the foundation, but it disappeared around a corner and I couldn’t relocate it. I’ve encountered these guys before, on a maple tree at my parents’ old house. At the time I noted that they supposedly would invade homes to find overwintering sites the same way that ladybugs do, but I’d never seen them indoors. Still haven’t, but at least the one this weekend was actually on the house.

9881 - Homoglaea hircina - Goat Sallow

Both Saturday and Sunday I was tempted into putting out my mercury vapour lamp to see if there were any moths out and about, woken up by the spring-like character of the day. (When Dan asked what I’d been doing outside and I told him, he said “You really like moths, don’t you? I mean, you don’t just like them, you really like them.” Yes, yes I do.) Saturday wasn’t quite warm enough, and I didn’t get anything. I brought the bulb inside after a couple hours. Sunday, however, I had three – three! – moths come to the house. And not just little micro guys, either. These were all macromoths, big species at least as large as your thumbnail. (Hey, in the world of moths, that counts as large).

The one above was the very first one to arrive. It’s one of the beautiful chunky sallows I was hoping for. In fact, this one was a new species for me. It’s a Goat Sallow, Homoglaea hircina, a species of the northern woods – the Carolinian, Great Lakes-St Lawrence, and Boreal forests (I haven’t mapped this one yet, but I’m getting really good at interpreting written range descriptions…) – where its caterpillars feed on aspen and poplars. It’s a super-early flyer, the overwintering adults out and about in March and April, as soon as the snow starts melting back from the ground. So not a surprise to see it, and perhaps funny that I hadn’t encountered it before.

9915 - Lithophane grotei - Grote's Pinion

And the second moth here is a Grote’s Pinion. This one’s found through most of the northeast, and feeds on a variety of tree species. They’re usually encountered among the last of the moths in the fall, and again with the first of the moths in the spring. Like the Goat Sallow, they overwinter as adults and are quick to take advantage of warm weather.

The third moth I saw fluttering in the eaves of the front porch overhang, but wasn’t able to relocate it when I came back with my long-handled butterfly net to try to reach it.

Judging from the weather forecast, that looks like it might be it for moths for at least the next week or so. A tantalizing hint of things to come!